Individuals with autism often experience difficulty acquiring a functional intraverbal repertoire, despite demonstrating strong mand, tact, and listener skills. This learning problem may be related to the fact that the primary antecedent variable for most intraverbal behavior involves a type of multiple control identified as a verbal conditional discrimination (VCD). The current study is a descriptive analysis that sought to determine if there is a general sequence of intraverbal acquisition by typically developing children and for children with autism, and if this sequence could be used as a framework for intraverbal assessment and intervention. Thirty-nine typically developing children and 71 children with autism were administered an 80-item intraverbal subtest that contained increasingly difficult intraverbal questions and VCDs. For the typically developing children the results showed that there was a correlation between age and correct intraverbal responses. However, there was variability in the scores of children who were the same age. An error analysis revealed that compound VCDs were the primary cause of errors. Children with autism made the same types of errors as typically developing children who scored at their level on the subtest. These data suggest a potential framework and sequence for intraverbal assessment and intervention.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alonso-Alvarez, B., & Perez-Gonzalez, L. A. (2006). Emergence of complex conditional discriminations by joint control of compound samples. The Psychological Record, 56, 447–463.
Axe, J. B. (2008). Conditional discrimination in the intraverbal relation: A review and recommendations for future research. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 24, 159–174.
Bijou, S. W. (1976). Child development: The basic stage of early childhood. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Braam, S. J., & Poling, A. (1982). Development of intraverbal behavior in mentally retarded individuals through transfer of stimulus control procedures: Classification of verbal responses. Applied Research in Mental Retardation, 4, 279–302.
Braam, S. J., Sundberg, M. L., & Stafford, M. W. (1978, May). Teaching an intraverbal repertoire. Paper presented at the Fourth Annual Association for Behavior Analysis Convention, Chicago, IL.
Brazelton, T. B., & Sparrow, J. D. (2006). Touchpoints. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Books.
Brown, R., Cazden, C., & Bellugi, U. (1969). The child’s grammar from I to III. In J. P. Hill (Ed.), The 1967 symposium on child psychology (pp. 28–73). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Catania, A. C. (1998). Learning (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
de Villers, J. G., & de Villers, P. A. (1978). Langauge acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Ervin-Tripp, S. (1970). Discourse agreement: How children answer questions. In J. R. Hayes (Ed.) Cognition and the development of language (pp. 79–107). New York: Wiley and Sons.
Goldsmith, T. R., LeBlanc, L. A., & Sautter, R. A. (2007). Teaching intraverbal behavior to children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 1, 1–13.
Groskreutz, N. C., Karsina, A., Miguel, C. F., & Groskreutz, M. P. (2010). Using complex auditory-visual samples to produce emergent relations in children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43, 131–136.
Gross, A., Fuqua, R. W., & Merritt, T. (2010, May). Evaluation of verbal behavior in older adults. In T. Sidener (Chair), Verbal behavior applications with children and older adults. Symposium presented at the 36th Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, San Antonio, TX.
Hart, B., & Risley, R. T. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.
Ingvarsson, E. T., Tiger, J. H., Hanley, G. P., & Stephenson, K. M. (2007). An evaluation of intraverbal training to generate socially appropriate responses to novel questions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 411–429.
Markham, M. R., & Dougher, M. J. (1993). Compound stimuli in emergent stimulus relations: Extending the scope of stimulus equivalence. Journal of the Experimental Analysis ofBehavior, 60, 529–542.
Michael, J. (2004). Concepts and principles of behavior analysis (2nd ed.). Kalamazoo, MI: Association for Behavior Analysis International.
Michael, J., Palmer, D. C., & Sundberg, M. L. (2011). The multiple control of verbal behavior. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 27, 3–22.
Miguel, C. F., Petursdottir, A. I., & Carr, J. E. (2005). The effects of multiple-tact and receptive discrimination training on the acquisition of intraverbal behavior. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 21, 27–41.
Miklos, M., Dipuglia, A., & Galbraith, W. A. (2010, May). Changes in student performance: Case studies in verbal behavior within a large-scale public school project. Symposium presented at the 36th Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis, San Antonio, TX.
Moerk, E. L. (1986). Environmental factors in early language acquisition. In G. J. Whitehurst (Ed.), Annals of child development (Vol. 3, pp. 191–235). Stamford, CT: JAI Press.
Novak, G. (1996). Developmental psychology: Dynamical systems and behavior analysis. Reno, NV: Context Press.
Oah, S., & Dickinson, A. M. (1989). A review of empirical studies of verbal behavior. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 7, 53–68.
Partington, J. W., & Sundberg, M. L. (1998). The assessment of basic language and learning skills: The ABLLS. Pleasant Hill, CA: Behavior Analysts.
Perez-Gonzalez, L. A., & Alonso-Alvarez, B. (2008). Common control by compound samples in conditional discriminations. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 90, 81–101.
Perez-Gonzalez, L. A., Garcia-Asenjo, L., Williams, G., & Carnerero, J. J. (2007). Emergence on intraverbal antonyms in children with pervasive developmental disorder. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 697–701.
Petursdottir, A. I., Carr, J. E., Lechago, S. A., & Almason, S. M. (2008). An evaluation of intraverbal training and listener training for teaching categorization skills. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 41, 53–68.
Petursdottir, A. I., & Haflioadottir, R. D. (2009). A comparison of four strategies for teaching a small foreign-language vocabulary. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 685–690.
Poon, W., & Butler, K. G. (1972). Evaluation of intraverbal responses in five-to-seven year-old children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 15, 303–307.
Saunders, K. J., & Spradlin, J. E. (1989). Conditional discrimination in mentally retarded adults: The effect of training the component simple discriminations. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 52, 1–12.
Sautter, R. A., & LeBlanc, L.A. (2006). Empirical applications of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior with humans. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 22, 35–48.
Schlinger, H. D., Jr. (1995). A behavior analytic view of child development. New York: Plenum Press.
Schrier, A. M., & Thompson, C. R. (1980). Conditional discrimination training: A critique and amplification. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 33, 291–298.
Shillingsburg, A. M., Kelley, M. E., Roane, H.A., Kisamore, A., & Brown, M. A. (2009). Evaluation and training of yes-no responses across verbal operants. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 209–223.
Sidman, M. (1994). Equivalence relations and behavior: A research story. Boston: Authors Cooperative.
Sidman, M., & Tailby, W. (1982). Conditional discrimination vs. matching to sample: An expansion of the testing paradigm. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 37, 5–22.
Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism. New York: Knopf.
Spradlin, J. E. (1963). Assessment of speech and language of retarded children: The Parsons language sample. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders Monograph, 10, 8–31.
Spradlin, J. E., Cotter, V. W., & Baxley, N. (1973). Establishing a conditional discrimination without direct training: A study of transfer with retarded adolescents. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 77, 556–566.
Stromer, R., McIlvane, W. J., & Serna, R. W. (1993). Complex stimulus control and equivalence. The Psychological Record, 43, 585–598.
Stromer, R., & Stromer, J. B. (1990). Matching to complex samples: Further study of arbitrary stimulus classes. The Psychological Record, 40, 505–516.
Sundberg, M. L. (1983). Language. In J. L. Matson, & S. E. Breuning (Eds.), Assessing the mentally retarded (pp. 285–310). New York: Grune & Stratton.
Sundberg, M. L. (1990). Teaching verbal behavior to the developmentally disabled. Pleasant Hill, CA: Behavior Analysts.
Sundberg, M. L. (2006, August). What typical language development can teach us about language training for children with autism. Invited workshop at the National Autism Conference, State College, PA.
Sundberg, M. L. (2008). The verbal behavior milestones assessment and placement program: The VB-MAPP. Concord, CA: AVB Press.
Sundberg, M. L., & Michael, J. (2001). The benefits of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior for children with autism. Behavior Modification, 25, 698–724.
Sundberg, M. L., Ray, D. A., Braam, S. E., Stafford, M. W., Reuber, T. M., & Braam, C. A. (1979). A manual for the use of B. F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior for language assessment and programming. Western Michigan University Behavioral Monograph #9, Kalamazoo, MI.
Sundberg, M. L., Roden, R., Weathers, K., Hale, L., Montano, S., & Muhlestein, S. (2006, March). Teaching intraverbal behavior to children with autism: A new assessment tool and curriculum. Paper presented at the 24th Annual Conference, California Association for Behavior Analysis, San Francisco, CA.
Sundberg, M. L., San Juan, B., Dawdy, M., & Arguelles, M. (1990). The acquisition of tacts, mands, and intraverbals by individuals with traumatic brain injury. The Analysis of Verbal behavior, 8, 83–99.
We thank all those who helped conduct the intraverbal assessment (Kristen Albert, Judah Axe, Vincent Carbone, James Carr, Lori Chamberlain, Anne Cummings, Carla Epps, William Galbraith, Rebecca Godfrey, Lisa Hale, Ally Labrie, Heather Law, Mike Miklos, Shannon Montano, Shannon Muhlestein, Paige Raetz, Rikki Roden, David Roth, Rachael Sautter, Carl Sundberg, Brenda Terzich, Joel Vidovic, Kaisa Weathers, and Amy Wiech) and the families of the children who participated in the study. Portions of this paper were presented as an Invited Tutorial at the 38th Annual Association for Behavior Analysis International Convention, Phoenix, AZ, May 29, 2009.
Parenting Partnerships p]USA
About this article
Cite this article
Sundberg, M.L., Sundberg, C.A. Intraverbal Behavior and Verbal Conditional Discriminations in Typically Developing Children and Children With Autism. Analysis Verbal Behav 27, 23–44 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03393090
- language assessment
- language intervention
- typically developing children
- verbal conditional discrimination